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CRM: Which Student Success?

As a follow-up to Paul Setze’s blog Who is the constituent in CRM?, I think another question is Which approach to Student Success in CRM? Student success is a core component of almost any CRM discussion. In a previous blog, Student Success: CRM is not enough, Paul noted:

If your starting point for student success is not identifying clearly defined metrics for student success and recognizing the organizational change that is required (and it will be required!), chances are you will expend a great deal of time and money with little to show for it.

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The Problem with Current Solutions

I thought I would take a look at Student Success from the solutions available for it. Vendors all have their concept of what constitutes student success. Their solutions deliver results based on their definition of student success. This is where the idea that if you have a hammer, your problem is a nail comes into play. Many times these decisions on student success solutions are based on what the vendor does well. For example:

  • If you are a SIS vendor, then student success is an extension to the SIS.
  • If you are a CRM vendor, it is an extension of the relationship management.
  • If you are an analytics company, it is about the data and predicting success.

In my opinion, the issue is not that the vendors define the problem incorrectly, but rather that student success encompasses all these different views. It is not if the vendor has a good solution, the critical question is how does your institution define the student success and how do you plan on improving the student success.

Worthwhile Approaches

Here are types of student success approaches worth consideration:

  • Early alert: This is the most popular component of student success in CRM because it is a reconfiguration of the recruitment process. The key questions are: what data is used for the early alert and what do you do with the alert when it is triggered?
  • Guided student experience: Many institutions indicate student experience is key to student success. Changing the student experience has significant impact to the institution’s processes. Vendors provide solutions for a student centric process that hides the complexity of the institution from the student.
  • Advising: There are two components. The first is providing the information to the student so they are able to make clear decisions, and the second is the information provided to the advisor to ensure they provide good advice. Advising brings together information from multiple systems and helps the user interpret the information to make a decision.
  • Student service: This is similar to a help desk type functionality. A student has a question or a problem he or she asks to the institution. Note: the student asks the institution; the student does not care about what type of question it is or who in the organization answers the question. The student wants a correct answer immediately. Student service requires a case management approach with escalations to ensure the best service to the student. After all, it is the student the institution serves.

With all of these solutions, the technology itself will not improve student success. More importantly, it is what the organization does with the information provided by the solution. So why is the vendor approach important? When talking to vendors, their solutions tend to be very strong in one area, but they will all have “some type” of answer to the other areas. This is usually accomplished by forming the institution’s problem into a nail that will fit with their hammer. I am not saying any one solution is bad; I am simply pointing out that you should understand what student success problem the vendor is addressing.

The Cart before the Horse

Improving student success is based on the institution’s needs and not a particular technical solution. Too many times we have seen a technology decision made before the result metrics are clearly understood. Many times this action limits the success of the solution, and it is not the vendor’s issue. Remember, the question I like to ask when the technology is chosen: Now that we have the answer, what is the question?

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